The demographics of Long Island's triathlon scene are changing, and one of the most striking developments is that new participants are more likely to come from sports that have not attracted triathletes in the past.
That's based on an analysis of 1,500 entrants in the 26th annual Runner's Edge Tobay Triathlon, the largest swim-bike-run event on Long Island. The race, organized by the Greater Long Island Running Club, is set for Aug. 24 in Oyster Bay.
An Olympic sport since 2000, triathlon was once considered a bastion of type-A male runners who, forced to cross-train as a result of injuries, could now compete in three events, while limiting the stresses on their bodies. Later, "pure" swimmers and cyclists began tri-training. That's changing.
"You have a lot of people now coming from no background in swimming, biking or running," says triathlon coach Jose L. Lopez of Mineola, who won the first Tobay Tri in 1988.
Cases in point in this year's race: Julian Acevedo, 26, a former diver and mountain climber; Dave Patton, 46, a martial artist and Kathy Griswold, 40, a yoga teacher.
All three are doing Tobay for the first time; each found the sport through a different route.
Acevedo, a native of Colombia who now lives in Astoria, grew up cliff diving in his hometown of Medellin. He earned an athletic scholarship to Stony Brook University as a platform diver, and after graduation in 2009, took up another sport that took him to high places: mountain climbing.
But when a friend signed up for a sprint triathlon, he got interested in the sport. (Although distances vary slightly, Tobay, like many sprint-
distance triathlons, consists of a half-mile swim; a 15k, or 9.3-mile, bike race; and a 5k, or 3.1-mile, run.
Triathlons, in general, are contested at longer distances, including the Ironman, a grueling 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26.2-mile run.)
"I decided this was something I want to do," said Acevedo, who is expected to be among the top finishers at Tobay. "Triathlon is about heart and soul ... you really have to push yourself to get to the next level. I feel right at home with that."
The mental toughness needed to train for and complete a triathlon should be something Patton can relate to. "In jujitsu, you're used to adverse situations, and you push through," says the Mineola resident, who is doing the race as the result of a bet he lost with his wife, Theresa, who competed here last year. "I bet her she couldn't finish in under two hours," he said. She finished in 1 hour, 42 minutes. "So this is my payback" Patton says with a chuckle.
Griswold was a high school shot putter and softball player back in Massachusetts. This past winter, when her gym held a mini indoor tri -- participants swam in the pool, pedaled a stationary bike and ran on a treadmill -- she jumped in and enjoyed it.
"I decided maybe I should do a real one." said Griswold, a Plainview resident who teaches yoga at two local studios.
"I will finish, and I will have a blast doing it," she said.
For information on the Tobay Triathlon: runnersedgetobaytriathlon.com